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Echo Press Editorial: Here comes the plow - what do you do?

A snowplow driver works his way along an Evansville Township road near Lake Jennie. (Echo Press file photo)

If you find yourself driving behind a snowplow or see one coming toward you on the road, you should know what to do.

One key strategy: Replace panic with patience.

Not enough drivers do that.

So far this winter season, there have been at least 22 crashes in Minnesota involving vehicles and snowplows.

With more snow likely to fall sometime this winter, danger looms. The Minnesota Department of Transportation is urging motorists to use extra caution during plowing and snow removal operations.

"Inattentive drivers, motorists driving too close to the plow and motorists driving too fast for conditions are the main causes of these crashes," said Steve Lund, state maintenance engineer in a news release. "Our snowplow drivers are well trained to drive their plows, but motorists should be patient and stay back from the plow. Snowplows travel much slower than the posted speeds because it is most effective for clearing roads."

Lund said that operators' ability to see behind them is restricted behind the truck so they must rely on mirrors to see to the rear and side of the truck.

"Their vision is also hampered by the snow clouds created while they plow. So, the safest place you can be is well behind the snowplow and away from the snow cloud it creates," he said.

Last year in Minnesota, there were 58 crashes involving vehicles and snowplows.

Minnesota law requires motorists to turn on their headlights when it's snowing or at any other time when weather conditions impair visibility.

Here are some other recommendations for safe driving around snowplows:

• Stay alert for snowplows, which turn or exit frequently and often with little warning. They also may travel over centerlines or partially in traffic to further improve road conditions.

• Stay back at least 10 car lengths behind the plow. Don't drive into a snow cloud.

• Slow down to a safe speed for current conditions.

• Turn on your headlights and wear your seat belt.

• Turn off the cruise control.

• Be patient and remember snowplows are working to improve road conditions for your trip.

• Don't drive distracted.

Motorists should check road conditions at 511mn.org.

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